The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum recently finished a detailed account of the plant and animal life found in the area of the Los Angeles River. The majority of the plants and wildlife exist in the area between the Flood Basin and Frogtown. The many natural sandy bottoms in this area have facilitated the return of life, as a sizable number of trees, shrubs, and reeds get washed away during winter floods. Way back in 1769, the plant life along the river was studied by intrepid explorer Juan Crespi during the Portola expedition. After coming to a location that was likely near Frogtown, he noted that his group had entered a very big valley, overgrown with cottonwoods and alders, among which ran a body of water from the north-northwest, in reference to the Los Angeles River.
Individuals working for the California Native Plant Society have been replanting many native plants in the river basin. A part devoted to flowers that attract hummingbirds has also been placed in the area. The following list contains some of the native plants that might be encountered along the river: The sycamore tree, Platanus racemosa, actually had a role in the founding of the city of Los Angeles.
A key Gabrielino Indian village was situated in the vicinity of a very large sycamore, which they called the council tree. The Spanish camp that later became the location of Los Angeles was situated near the Indian village. The camp was washed away in the Great Flood of 1815, but the sycamore survived. The tree later died in 1892 and was cut down. An examination found that it was approximately 400 years old.
The cottonwood tree was very common along bodies of water in early California. As industrialization has lowered water levels, these riparian trees have vanished from many riverbanks. Early explorers utilized the cottonwood�s riparian nature to help them in finding water. Willow trees are another widespread riparian tree native to the region.
The tree leaves were utilized by California Indian tribes for medicine, while the small branches were used for basket making and the larger branches for wood. The pollen of the cattail, Typha domingensis, was used by tribes for food, while the roots served as a form of medicine, and the stalks were good for bedding and building material. Jimson Weed was revered by California Indians as a powerful drug used in rituals. It can be poisonous to both humans and animals.
Matt Paolini is an environmental writer for CityBook.com, the family-safe Online Yellow Pages, which carries an extensive directory on Los Angeles house plans.